Red Location gets its name from the colour of the corrugated-iron shacks that once lined its streets. Built in 1903 to house black African workers who had been forcibly removed from the city, they quickly rusted to a sombre maroon. Today this dusty, windy quarter of New Brighton township, Port Elizabeth, on South Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline, is crowded with matchbox houses where children play and laundry hangs out to dry in the sun.
It seems an incongruous setting for a museum – but then, that is part of the philosophy behind the Red Location Museum of the People’s Struggle, which recently won the inaugural Lubetkin Prize, awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects for an outstanding building outside the EU. By the time a visitor arrives at the museum, he or she has got a feel for what township life is like. And for the local residents it is a functional space: outside, there is a covered plaza that provides shade and shelter to people chatting as they wait to catch a bus. “Our challenge was to reconstruct a past which had been destroyed, to give voice to people who had been stifled,” says Jo Noero of the Noero Wolff architectural partnership, which designed the museum. “Our aim was to help a community to reclaim its history.”
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